“To sleep, perchance to dream…”
Okay, so Hamlet was talking about death. But for the purpose of this article, can we just pretend he was talking about hitting the hay for a good night’s rest?
It’s no surprise that you need to be rested and refreshed in order to be as productive as possible each and every day. Unfortunately, though, sometimes sleep doesn’t come as easy as it should. Those restless nights aren’t entirely random, however. Your actions leading to laying down for the night determine whether you’ll be able to drift off to dreamland, or find yourself wide awake, counting endless sheep until three in the morning.
If you need a good night’s sleep, make sure to:
1. Avoid chemicals
Tobacco, drugs, alcohol, even caffeine can all keep you from nodding off easily for a variety of reasons. Obviously, caffeine and other stimulants are going to keep you up, even if taken hours beforehand. While alcohol technically does the opposite, you’ll find yourself waking up in the middle of the night after the numbing effects wear off. Don’t you miss the college days, when you could actually sleep through a hangover?
2. Avoid junk food
In the same vein as other chemicals, eating junk food before bed is going to come back to haunt you overnight. If you’ve ever seen Home Improvement, you’ve seen the running gag in which Tim eats some spicy food or sausage and peppers as a “quick snack,” only to end up groaning all night while holding his stomach. While it’s difficult to sleep on a completely empty stomach, you shouldn’t pack it all in before bed as if you’re going to the electric chair. Eat a light snack such as fruit or a salad to hold you over until the morning.
3. Stay hydrated
Hopefully you’ve taken my previous advice and started drinking more water throughout the day. Your fluid intake throughout the day greatly affects your ability to sleep through the night. Think about it: you go six to eight hours every night without taking a single sip of water. If you hadn’t consumed enough throughout the day, you’re going to end up severely dehydrated overnight. Obviously, you don’t want to drink so much that you keep waking up for other reasons, but make sure you have a glass of the good stuff about an hour before you lay down at night.
4. Eliminate noise
Going to sleep with the TV on is bad enough for your mental and physical health, but now we’ve thrown cell phones into the mix as well. And “noise” doesn’t just refer to sound; excess lighting can also interrupt a good night’s sleep, even on a subconscious level. Finally, the “noise” your thoughts create definitely make it harder to drift off; how can you sleep when you have so much to take care of? As best you can, put your worries on the shelf until morning. There’s really not much you can get done at 1:00AM on a Tuesday, anyway.
5. Have a routine
Having a routine for pretty much anything makes life easier, right? When your life follows a natural progression, the next step comes to you like clockwork. You probably already have a ritual that you follow, that includes brushing your teeth, washing your face, and other preparatory acts to get you ready to hit the sack. If so, what happens when you miss one of the steps? It probably keeps you up longer than you want to be. If you have a ritual or routine, stick to it. Not only will it help you sleep better, but it’s probably healthier, too.
6. Earn your sleep
If you’ve ever had a day in which you didn’t put much effort into your work or slacked off, neglecting errands in favor of sitting on the couch all evening, it’s more than likely you found it hard to fall asleep that night. Sleep is the human equivalent of recharging our batteries; if we haven’t used up our energy, we have no need to recharge. Of course, if we miss out on a night’s sleep, we’ll certainly feel it the next day, and the cycle of unproductiveness will continue. Take advantage of every single day by putting your all into everything you do. When you go to bed completely exhausted, no matter what else you have going on in life, sleep will come easy.
Featured photo credit: his side of the bed / Liz Lister via farm6.staticflickr.com